Hong Kong journalist union chair arrested weeks before Oxford fellowship

The head of Hong Kong’s journalist union has been arrested, weeks before he was due to leave for an overseas fellowship at Oxford University.

Ronson Chan, the chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), was arrested for allegedly obstructing a police officer and disorderly conduct in a public place.

Channel C, the online news outlet Chan works for, said the veteran reporter was taken away by officers who asked to check his identity while he was reporting on a meeting of public housing flat-owners on Wednesday.

Police said a 41-year-old man surnamed Chan was arrested after he refused to show officers his ID card and behaved in an “uncooperative” way despite multiple warnings.

Chan planned to leave Hong Kong at the end of September for the six-month Reuters Institute fellowship programme at Oxford University.

“We continue to look forward to welcoming Ronson Chan to Oxford,” Rasmus Nielsen, the director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said. “He is an accomplished and respected journalist and has much to share with everyone here.”

Authorities have used a national security law and colonial-era sedition charges to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong after democracy protests three years ago.

Local media deemed critical of the government have faced an increase of police investigations and the city has plummeted down global press freedom rankings.

Like many now-shuttered civil society groups and pro-democracy unions, Chan and the HKJA have faced repeated criticism from media outlets that answer to Beijing’s liaison office in the city.

Police action has often followed such media coverage.

The local tabloid Apple Daily and online news platform StandNews – Chan’s former employer – were forced to close last year after executives were charged with national security violations, leaving hundreds of journalists out of work.

When Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its annual press freedom ranking in May, Hong Kong had plunged 68 places to 148th in the world.

In RSF’s first report in 2002, Hong Kong had some of the freest media in Asia and ranked 18th worldwide.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong gave up Asia’s largest annual human right press awards this year, citing risks posed by the security law – a decision that caused controversy among many journalist members.

The club recently published a watered-down statement on press freedom on its website.

One of the removed sentences from the statement read: “Facing unprecedented attacks on the media, never has our club’s role been more vital – nor our commitment been stronger.”

The Guardian

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